#Notmydream

We sleep through the alarm. Curled like torpid dormice, our body heat cocoons us in blissful ignorance. Together we fly, soaring high in shared dreams: fantasy worlds where tolerance, understanding and kindness are the trending hashtags. The day is on hold. The screaming headlines are still muted until clicked and set free.

Credits

fiction by
Tracy Fells
@theliterarypig

image by
Anastasya Shepherd
scarletline.com/ashepherd

©
creators

Blaško

“Here in Moklište, every story is like the cosmos, with ever-smaller systems fitting neatly into one another – a galaxy, a planet, a continent, a country, a province, a town, the present, the past, the grandpast, the great-grandpast and so on, until we get to the myths, which are each based on their own stories, passed down from generation to generation.” His voice fills the library like the creaking of a waterwheel, churning in the stream of his thoughts. He pauses. In the candlelight, the suits of armour, petrified by dust and web, hold their breath. Only when the pilgrim looks up from his hands, sleeping on a bed of shavings in his lap, beside his penknife and the whittled stake, does Blaško continue. “You can never tell the whole story, which is why it is always best to begin at the end. The present. Where we are now.”
by
Richard de Nooy
@RicharddeNooy
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to blasko@adhocfiction.com

The Sac That Was Our Living Room Ceiling

The flat upstairs. It's their escaped water, low slung in the sac that was our living room ceiling. Icy cold drops sweat along the pregnant plaster, grow plump, fall down - we had to move the couch. The floorboards are dotted with filling bowls. Some day (or night) soon, the whole lot's going to finally burst. My family nag me to call the landlord but I hate confrontation. I say I'll call him tomorrow, after the weekend, after Christmas. I know they're losing respect for me over this. I hate that I'm supposed to be the one to deal with problems. This isn't our country. I don't like to make waves. Meanwhile, the sagging over our heads undulates and sways with its own incomprehensible tides.

Credits

fiction by
Nick Black
@fuzzynick

image by
kerry rawlinson
kerryrawlinson.tumblr

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creators

Bar

Dumped. On the edge of Leeds, just a stone’s-throw-away from dead-end-alley which she teeters down in her six-inch heels and fake furs ‘bloody useless’ against brutish winds. She’s feeling out-of-sorts. The doorman dressed in his best, draws back from the devilish cold as our blue lady enters and sheds off her skins into the closet. She rouges her lips then click-clacks across marble to sit high at the bar and fiddle fingers around rings, till the man unhangs a polished glass on display and swills in a G&T to slide over. Another double, he positions by her elbow and jerks his thumb at a smoking silhouette in a hat. She keeps her bright eyes away from rebel’s corner, but quaffs a hand under her hair, swivels her twizzler to excite bubbles to fizz in her gin and wonders where a warm taxi might take her as she sips her pick-me-up.
by
Ruth Tamiatto
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to bar@adhocfiction.com

Different Strokes

The dried meat hung next to her. Speckles of brown and red pricked its surface. Had she been vegetarian, before this? She needed to get out of the room. Shiny floors stared up at her, daring her to try. On her plate sat three tired tomatoes. She rolled them around as if that might prompt her disobedient tongue to curl into the right shape for words. Red-circle-no. Close enough. She hated the things. A girl in starched white leant over her. ‘In we pop, Alison’. One tomato was spooned into a space on her face. She tried to chew. In the bed opposite, a man as old as her father smiled with one side of his mouth. She glanced back at the meat to her right with its five familiar fingers. I’m only half here. ‘Yes, lovely tomatoes,’ said the girl as she stroked away a trickle of escaping saliva.
by
Stephanie Hutton
@tiredpsych
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to differentstrokes@adhocfiction.com

Bound in Smoke

Blackened branches, white with ash at the ends, dumped on the patio when we were done prodding. Embers gagging on the lack of oxygen after hours of burning in our makeshift back garden barbecue: an oversized tin can so charred we could only remember it was once for olives. Flaky ash lying on the window sill and the seats we had made on stacked breeze blocks and an empty blue plastic milk bottle crate. Debris so integral to our garden life we'd forgotten any urge we had, on moving in, to buy real outdoor furniture. Leaning in against the back door in the light from the kitchen, my spiral bound notepad, biro tucked through the wire. “Alright?” His eyes were blazing clear. The things we had written. Words and thoughts scorched and bound in the smoke. “Yeah. You?” “Yeah.” We meant it, no need to say more.
by
Claire T Allen
@lipbalmy
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to boundinsmoke@adhocfiction.com

New Math

Negotiating the cafeteria was what Square Root dreaded most about her first day at Weirdly Q. Showoff Performing Arts School. A clattering symphony of equations and functions buffeted her ears. With fours and nines piled on her lunch tray, she searched for an empty seat. Square Root set down her tray at the logarithms’ table. “Oh please,” a log sighed. “This table is for high end computations. You need to sit with the babies at the fractions table.” At the fractions table, everyone had Spongebob lunchboxes. And the chairs were too small. Not for her. All the forces at the Newtonian mechanics table wore velocity letter jackets. They grunted and glared when Square Root passed. A dotted i waved her over. “What are you guys? Apple products?” Square Root asked. “Nah. We’re imaginary numbers. The jocks and the cool kids won’t hang out with us, either.”
by
Caleb Echterling
@CalebEchterling
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to newmath@adhocfiction.com

8 by 3

He remembers so many wars he can count them on both hands and feet. His face is a map of worries, drawn deeper by nicotine. His skin’s as pale as tracing paper, blending into the walls. Grandad says he feels old as time. The afternoon after his 90th birthday he gets a shovel from the shed. He walks bent double to the rosebushes, a clockwork toy slowing down. With an aerosol can he sprays white lines on the lawn. The wind whips his silver hair across his face like a shroud but he doesn’t stop. He works like a 20 year old, the spade gliding through the frosty earth like water. Inch by inch he removes the soil, the darkness leaving a perfect void. Soon there is no more time. Now when I hang out the washing the smell of tobacco lingers among the roses.

Credits

fiction by
Christina Taylor
@Chrissie72

image by
Firdows Kahn

©
creators

Not All Points of Sail Are Equal

If you were a schooner, you would outrun the swiftest, you with your mad eyes locked on elusive prizes, trying to shoot the bar before it shoots you. Steering and trimming and trimming and steering, leaving the safety of broad reaches, risking side-swipes from the heavy boom. You would careen as you drew closer to the wind, pushing for the horizon, a-tilt, blinded by spray, moderation foreign to your one-man armada. If you were a schooner, you would forget the simple lessons of Newtonian mechanics: all with or all against the gale’s force is never as safe as a steady beam reach. Closer and closer you would haul your craft until you were, at last, in irons. If you were a schooner, you would end locked in a standstill, pointing toward an edge where dreams and fate coalesce, with no hope of further motion.

Credits

fiction by
Christina Dalcher
@CVDalcher

image by
kerry rawlinson
kerryrawlinson.tumblr

©
creators

The Definition of Us

Cast. verb direct one’s eyes at someone (see Object of Desire, specifically, You) Caste. noun class of people with exclusive privileges (see Social Status; Father’s Business Partner) Cast. verb shape a substance by pouring it into a mold (see Arranged Marriage, Heterosexuality) Castigate. verb punish (see Name-Calling; Compliance by Force) Cast. verb shed skin in the process of maturation (see Personal Growth; Me) Castaway. noun person rejected from society (see Disownment; Choices) Cast. verb let down an anchor (see Stand My Ground) Castle. noun large building fortified against assault (see Walls I Can Build; Strength) Cast. noun actors in a play (see You and Me; Two-Woman Show)
by
Christina Dalcher
@CVDalcher
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to thedefinitionofus@adhocfiction.com

Husband's Decline

After he retired, husband spent his days cleaning the house. It became an obsession. He bought all sorts of dusters; short fluffy ones, long-handled ones for the high up places, thin flat ones for the inbetweeny spaces. He started to sweep away belongings. Shoes, crockery, DVDs. Then the cat, the car, our friends, the world outside. All brushed away and never mentioned again. I thought he would miss the cat. Then he swept away our children. First Sarah, our eldest. She had always been his little monkey, hanging round his neck. But he whisked her away without a second thought. Then James, then Michael. I thought that was it, there was nothing left to lose. Then he took up the fluffy duster and I was gone. All that was left were a few old photographs of himself as a boy and a scruffy old teddy that smelled of his mother.

Credits

fiction by
Katherine Latham
@kath_la

image by
Jon Stubbington
www.recycledwords.co.uk

©
creators

down-the-drain

Close Shave

Pain, if it could be called that? No no, that's not it. Raw and humming. Undercurrents of seared heat. That was it. A thick drop of blood explodes above the blank curve of the white marble sink. A parabola, a topological space, a set of points clustered in equal dimensions, a god damn deformed line. The drop gathers again after impact, diluted now by shards of old sinewed water. Gravity and momentum push it toward the plug hole, next stop? The sewer and onwards to Dublin bay. Face never ever clean. Shadows, always shadows. Morning - noon - night. Pluck a clean razor, try again, 140 times until it's right.

Credits

fiction by
Luke Timmins
@luketimmins77

image by
kerry rawlinson
kerryrawlinson.tumblr

©
creators

no-yellow-brick-road

No Yellow Brick Road

Rain lashed the pavement like some crazed madam punishing her disobedient slave. Puddles formed, puddles merged, puddles began to take over the world. Plastic bags, soggy leaves, and small children were whipped up by the wind. Clouds loomed within touching distance, squeezing the space between heaven and earth. Soaked pedestrians with useless umbrellas leant into the the storm. I’d looked forward to this. I’d wished away each hour of hiraeth dreaming of Welsh rain. Funny how the mind plays tricks; conjuring scenes of romantic walks on misty cliffs, wet Welsh drizzle from Dylan’s mind. Not scary, apocalyptic storms when it feels like the house will fly and you’ll wake in Oz, desperate to click your heels and get back to Cardiff. But there’s no yellow brick road or tinman, just a squall of rain smashing into my window pane, then silence. The calm in the eye of the storm.

Credits

fiction by
Gareth Davies
garethdaviesauthor.blogspot

image by
Małgorzata Warmińska
instagram/gosiawww

©
creators

My Husband

I took husband and put him in a jar. I placed him between the sugar and tea. He looked good there, with his permanent three day beard and birdnest hair. And grimace. I open the jar on Sundays only, when he's well-rested and he won't shout at me like a savage. I take him to the pub. We stroll in the park. Stroke a puppy. I kiss him, he's happy. We stare at the lake. Feed the ducks. I tell him the plan and he nods. I guide him into bed. He's a good boy. We hold hands and watch the sunset. The truth is I can't open the jar. I've tried everything, knives, spoons, gripping with both hands. 'I can't open it from the inside,' he tells me. I shrug. Don't worry, one day we'll have everything worked out.
by
Bogdan Tiganov
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to myhusband@adhocfiction.com

A Kiss of Sorts

He peeled a first class stamp off the folded rectangle of card, warm and concave from the wallet he carried in his back pocket. Licking had been better. When you licked a stamp a piece of you went with it; some bodily fluid, a kiss of sorts, a teardrop, or a spit. This letter should have all three. He wrote his own address on the envelope, but not his name. He wrote her name, without the ‘Mrs’. A ‘Mrs’ would imply a future. She would recognise his handwriting of course, and she’d have been expecting something, a text or an email. She’d know it was terminal when she saw a letter. A licked stamp would have carried his dried up kiss and a tear. She deserved that at least. And the spit? Well perhaps the spit was in the letter; a clearing of the throat, some acid reflux, a goodbye.
Credits

fiction by
Steven John

©
creators

image by
S.B. Borgersen
www.sueborgersen.com

Project Calm
Ad Hoc Fiction Autumn Special Winners

Winner

Kate Carne

Runners Up

Jacqueline Carter & Kandi Thornton

project-calm-smallCongratulations to Kate, Jacqueline and Kandi. And huge thanks to everyone who entered and supported our Ad Hoc Fiction Autumn Special with Project Calm. These winning fictions will be available to read in the next issue of Project Calm, sold across major outlets from the 24th November in the UK, and the 24th December in the US.

project-calm-logobig

spray

Cleaning Spray

Some mornings I sweep dead flies from the windowsill overlooking the gardens. Thick dust returns each time, laying claim to shelved photographs framed shiny and wooden. Other memories lie face down, stacked and ready for dealing at Christmas or birthdays. A mop bucket full of cooling water. 'I sailed beneath the waterfall,' she tells me, 'I remember the roar, the stinging spray, the sheer weight of the water crashing around the boat and never since have I, ever been so close to feeling alive.' The kettle begins to boil. 'I flew high above the canyon,' she adds in astonishment. 'I walked on air.' She repeats I did, I did as if I don't believe her. As if somehow this is all make believe. I pour the tea. Two cups, sugar, stir. I know this is real. I can feel the stinging spray, the sheer weight of water all around me.

Credits

fiction by
Steve M

image by
Victoria Fielding
@fielding_v

©
creators

rest-break

Grip

The last time he saw her, she was sitting on the corner of the grubby white wire chair on the porch, the black vintage clutch gripped tightly in her hands. By then, her hands and pale skin were covered with creases and blue veins had sprouted up her arms. She would regularly pluck at her blouse and try to cover the blemishes. Her body was propped up in the chair, a pillow in the hollow of her back. Each Sunday morning, for the past seventeen years, he would work on the flowers by the driveway, occasionally glancing in her direction. Her husband had passed away three years ago, so he was waiting. Perhaps another year, perhaps more. The church bells were faint, irregular, mimicking her breathing. As the bells grew tired, her body sunk into the chair.

Credits

fiction by
Carien Smith
facebook.com/carien.smith.9

image by
kerry rawlinson
kerryrawlinson.tumblr

©
creators

Mondays

On Monday, John ate supermarket Sushi and remembered touring Japan with the band. From 12 to 1, before the mid afternoon rush, John picked at Chumaki rolls, rode bullet trains from one place to the next. Tuesday, John loosened and tightened the nut holding his bike seat firm, to lift it. An incorrectly positioned saddle often leads to under extension during peddling, resulting in knee ache. On Wednesday, he tried to catch an eye, any. Thursday, so little happened. On Friday, John swam in clear Icelandic water, warm from the tips of his ears down to the mud through his toes. Saturday John got drunk and messaged old friends, then blocked their numbers before they could reply. On Sunday, John wrote letters to himself then went to bed refreshed long before the news began. To end, John marked off each day until the letters arrived, dropping through the letterbox like amber leaves.
by
Steve M
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to mondays@adhocfiction.com

Trinkets

The jewellery rested on a bed of soft, burgundy velvet, cushioned against any mishap, coddled in the hand-made wooden box. He loved to stroke specific pieces: the heart shaped earrings; a mood ring that always proclaimed him 'calm'; an eternity ring, so well-worn the metal had become sharp enough to slice through skin. He held the silver bracelet, his first and favourite trinket. He ran his fingers along the raised edge of the inscription: For Mum – Love, Jim. He remembered the false, twisted smile on her thin lips the night he gave it to her. He remembered the night he cut it off, watched the smile disappear, listened to her screams. He remembered how good it felt, how, at last, she had set him on his true path. Memories are ephemeral but mementos are solid, giving him the connection he needs. They make everything worthwhile. Everything For Mum - Love, Jim.
by
Karen Jones
@karjon
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to trinkets@adhocfiction.com